Thursday, 20 July 2017


“The young habitually mistake lust for love, they're infested with idealism of all kinds.” ― Margaret Atwood 

Artemisia abrotanum (southernwood, lad’s love, southern wormwood) is a species of flowering plants in the Asteraceae family. It is native to Eurasia and Africa but naturalised in scattered locations in North America. Other common names include: Old man, boy’s love, oldman wormwood, lover’s plant, appleringie, garderobe, Our Lord’s wood, maid’s ruin, garden sagebrush, European sage, sitherwood and lemon plant.

Southernwood has a strong camphor-like odour and was historically used as an air freshener or strewing herb. It forms a small bushy shrub, which is widely cultivated by gardeners. The grey-green leaves are small, narrow and feathery. The small flowers are yellow. It can easily be propagated by cuttings, or by division of the roots. This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

A yellow dye can be extracted from the branches of the plant, for use in dying wool. Its dried leaves are used to keep moths away from wardrobes. The volatile oil in the leaves is responsible for the strong, sharp, scent that repels moths and other insects. It was customary to lay sprays of the herb amongst clothes, or hang them in closets, and this is the origin of southernwood’s French name, “garderobe” (‘clothes-preserver’). Judges carried posies of southernwood and rue to protect themselves from prisoners’ contagious diseases, and some church-goers relied on the herb’s sharp scent to keep them awake during long sermons.

The pungent, scented leaves and flowers are used in herbal teas. Young shoots were used to flavour pastries and puddings. In Italy, it is used as a culinary herb, especially with fatty meats. It has a strong, overpowering flavour and should be used sparingly in cooking.

In herbal medicine, Southernwood was used as an emmenagogue. It was said to be a good stimulant tonic, possessing some nervine principle. It was given in infusion of 1 ounce of the herb to 1 pint of boiling water, prepared in a covered vessel, the escape of steam impairing its value. Apparently, this type of infusion or tea is agreeable, but a decoction is distasteful, having lost much of the aroma. Considerable success was also attributed to it as an anthelmintic, being chiefly used against the worms of children, teaspoonful doses of the powdered herb being given in treacle morning and evening.

Southernwood should not be used by pregnant women. Some people are allergic to Southernwood and one should exercise caution in its use. People with hay fever may find its pollen bothersome and some experience contact dermatitis from the plant.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of southernwood foliage means “constancy”. A flowering stem means “A jest; good humour”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

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